Do you agree that most people in the novel are nice once you get to know them? How is Attiucus able to see the good side of people despite all he has experienced?
Mrs. Merriweather and Mrs. Dubose seem like examples of people who are not nice when you get to know them. Rather, they tend to continue to offer abuse and vitriol even when treated with understanding and hospitality.
Bob Ewell is also not nice when looked at closely.
However, Atticus and his children manage to find some sympathy for these characters even though they are not nice.
In contrast to the hypocritical fundamentalists who heckle Miss Maudie and the sanctimonious Mrs. Merriweather, Atticus exemplifies the ideal Christian, who seeks the goodness of others. He usually finds something that is worth liking in people; however, even he admits that Bob Ewell has nothing admirable, although he understands his motivation for spitting in his face.
The fact is that Harper Lee's novel is fictitious and meant to be a bildungsroman; therefore, it is instructional and somewhat idealized in certain aspects.
Hmmm, yes and no. One cannot consider Mr. Ewell, the villain of the novel (if you want to call him that) to be "nice once you get to know him" if you consider the evils of racism, ... ignorance or not. I'm not sure I agree that Atticus sees "the good side of [ALL] people despite all he has experienced," you know? However, I DO think Atticus is full of hope, ... hope for the goodness of mankind even in the face of true horrors. Atticus' comments about walking in another person's shoes and never killing a mockingbird are reflections of this hope.
Thus, it's important for us not to pretend that Atticus is so deluded to think that everyone in his town is "nice." Is it even realistic think that everyone in ANY town is actually "nice"? I believe this is doing Atticus, the most noble of characters in all of American Literature (all literature?), a great disservice. Therefore, read between the lines when you come upon this statement:
He is able not just to oppose injustice, but to see good in the very people who despise him.
Atticus is wise, not ignorant. Atticus is hopeful, not delusional.
Nice is a funny--and subjective--word, and I'm not sure it's one Atticus ever really used in this context. When he spoke of walking in other's skins before making judgments abput them, he was really explaining that everyone has redeeming qualities and reasons for acting as they do. It's more about understanding those things than just assuming everyone has a "nice" side to them. That's why Atticus was able to have some kind of empathy for Mayella Ewell and even for Bob Ewell. Because he takes into account more than what he hears or sees from them, he is able to at least understand them even though he does not agree with them or approve of their behavior.
First of all, Atticus is a fictional character even though his personality is based upon Harper Lee's father, so he can easily be a paragon of virtue. Whether he finds much good in the "white trash" element of Bob Ewell is dubious, also. Regarding the others who come into conflict with them, Atticus does try to "climb into their skin" so that he can understand their point of view. With Mrs. Dubose and Boo Radley, Atticus comes away with a better understanding. But, when Atticus climbs out of Bob Ewell's skin, he probably just feels the urgency to take a quick shower.
Most, yes, but not all. You have Mr. Ewell who never does get to be likable. You have Mrs. Dubose who is also nasty right to the end. I think that one thing we need to note is that Atticus does not think we should like everyone but that we should understand them. That is why we are supposed to walk around in their skin.
Both Ewell and Dubose are much more understandable once we get to know them. We may respect them (especially in her case) or pity them, but we do not really come to like them based on what we are told about them.
Atticus comes to understand people and see the good in them not because of his experience but because of his nature. He is simply a good person who tries to understand others instead of demonizing those who are different from him.
I believe that most of the people in Maycomb are respectful people. They are acting out of ignorance. Prejudices are based on ignorance. One thing that separates Atticus from the rest of Maycomb is his education. He reads often. He is well learned. He believes in showing respect to all people. In fact, he teaches his children that all people's opinions should be respected. He is a man of integrity and his character is known in the community:
Atticus, already known for his forthright character and commitment to honesty and to right, refuses to change his attitudes. He takes on Tom Robinson’s case, determined to give the man a chance at a fair trial. In doing so, he brings his family under the public scrutiny, a scrutiny which directs disapproval on him and on his children. Despite this, Atticus is unwavering in his determination to stand up for his beliefs. He is able not just to oppose injustice, but to see good in the very people who despise him.
Atticus understands prejudices. He realizes that prejudices are based on ignorance. He can forgive people for their ignorance. He does not judge people who are ignorant. He chooses to find the good in every man. That is how he can stand there and take it when Ewell spits in his face. Ewell is an unlearned man. He is uneducated, poor, and lacking good sense.
Atticus knows the ways of the world. He realizes change is gradual. He is a patient man. That is how he is able to keep a forgiving attitude. That is how he sleeps at night. He teaches his children to not judge until you have walked around in someone else's skin:
'First of all,' he said, 'If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-'
'-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.'
Atticus is an intelligent man. His education has shaped him into the understanding man he is.